I recently asked if it was curtains for the traditional balanced portfolio. The post was in response to a few reader questions and concerns. We don’t know the future, but I would hold the opinion that a traditional balanced portfolio will still get the job done. That said, there are a few moves that we can consider to build the new balanced portfolio.
Here’s the original post that asks if it’s over for the traditional balanced portfolio.
And for a Canadian investor, here are the building blocks for a core couch potato approach.
For a traditional balanced portfolio I had offered this mix on the Model ETF Portfolio page. This is the classic 60% stock to 40% bond portfolio. Keep in mind this is not a recommendation. Please do your own research. And as always, ensure that you invest within your risk tolerance level.
The core couch potato approach can be simplified even further with the 3-ETF version offered on CanadianPortfolioManager.
Of course within this approach we have US mid and small cap companies. We also have developing market equities. The balanced portfolio has certainly seen some evolution over the last decade.
So what’s missing?
Many portfolio modelers will suggest that the most glaring omission is real estate. While real estate can be included in the broad market indices it will present very modest exposure. That greater exposure is easily achieved by way of REITs.
For Canada we can use BMO’s ZRE.
Increasing developing market exposure.
Developing markets offer greater growth potential. Within these countries we see the rise of the middle classes. We see younger populations with greater population growth rates. The economic growth trends are much more favourable compared to developed markets.
Of course all of the leading ETF providers offer developing market ETFs. Here’s Vanguard’s VEE. You can also select a currency-hedged option.
Making some moves in the US and Canada.
Exposure to those US mid and small cap stocks will add growth potential. Again, modest exposure is present in XUU and XAW. An index that captures the greater growth potential, innovation and creativity of the US market is the Nasdaq 100.
The index is dominated by technology, healthcare and consumer services. Innovation is at the core of this index methodology. Many will suggest this index provides exposure to the current and future global growth drivers.
BMO offers the Nasdaq 100 by way of ZNQ. Again, there is also a currency-hedged option available. It is more than interesting to see that Horizons pairs the Nasdaq 100 with the S&P 500 in their tax-efficient balanced asset allocation portfolio.
In the Canadian market portfolio mangers will often pair a low volatility ETF with a core broad market ETF. I recently wrote on BMO’s low volatility offering. That ETF offers a more balanced approach to sector allocation. And in fact it is light on Canadian banks, but offers over 10% exposure to REITs and over 16% exposure to Canadian utilities. ZLB might work nicely with an XIU, with the potential to deliver greater risk adjusted returns.
Of course pensions and sovereign funds will invest in private equity. That’s not normally accessible for the retail investor. But thanks to WealthBar, you can include a private pool fund component.
On the bond front.
If we look back to that Horizons balanced asset allocation portfolio we see the inclusion of US treasuries. Mid and long term US treasuries are known to be of the best risk managers for equities. Given the low bond yields of the day it may make sense to use less bonds (if your risk tolerance permits) but use ‘better bonds’. And that is to say, ignore higher risk yield-chasing. You might not tilt to shorter duration offerings that offer lower yields and inferior stock risk management. Use the bonds that punch above their weight as risk managers.
Of course you can see from the Horizons table that they offer a 7-10 year treasury product. Keep in mind that is a total return ETF. That may be more suited to a non registered account that seeks greater tax efficiency.
BMO covers the US mid-term Treasury market with ZTM. They also have a short-term offering and cover long-term Treasuries by way of ZTL. Typically the longer the duration the greater the ability to manage the risk of stock market declines.
Developing markets bonds.
Our friends at Canadian Robo Advisor ModernAdvisor were the first to alert me to the notion that developing market bonds are a wonderful addition to the Balanced Portfolio. They suggest those bonds can even work better than US bonds for a Canadian investor. Either way it’s another leg on that portfolio stool.
BMO offers the emerging markets bond ETF ZEF.
We might finish off the portfolio exercise with a look at Gold. While out of favour Gold is known as one of the tried and true asset pillars. That’s a core component of the well-studied permanent portfolio. Gold may be a form of disaster insurance. It is often used by portfolio managers. Many would suggest even a modest exposure of 5%. Arthur Salzer of Northland Wealth Management offers that bitcoin is gaining in popularity as an asset class, more than you would expect. It’s not my cup of tea but you can have a read of Crypto’s role in a diversified portfolio.
Putting it all together.
The goal or end result in ‘all of this’ might be better risk-adjusted returns. We’re adding more non-correlated assets. Some of the assets also offer greater total return potential as well.
To my mind adding those REITs, plus US and International bonds might be the two greater areas of opportunity. Those might be the two biggest holes in the traditional balanced portfolio. It’s no surprise that the Robo Advisors include those assets in their Balanced Portfolios.
Balanced Growth Model
- 25% US equities. XUU plus ZNQ
- 15% Canadian equities. XIU and ZLB
- 10% International equities. XEF and VEE
- 20% Real estate. ZRE and ZGR
- 25% Bonds. XBB and ZTM and ZEF
- 5% Gold. HUG
Again, this is not a recommendation. To borrow from Seeking Alpha – Read. Decide. Invest. Please ensure that you understand all tax implications. You may decide to buy US dollars assets in US dollar accounts to avoid withholding taxes. For help on that matter you may have a read of Mark Seed’s what goes where article. But of course we might not always let tax considerations drive the bus. Asset allocation and risk management might rule the day.
If you need a greater master plan, please have a read of what is advice-only planning?
Thanks for reading. Please offer your thoughts in the comment section.